Last week, our beloved volunteer Ann Holland featured on ITV’s Calendar News “My Sporting Life” which took a look back at Ann’s six decades at Sandygate -yet more deserved recognition for the lady frequently described as “NCEL Royalty”.
We thought , then, that it might be worth revisiting a www.hallamfc.co.uk feature all about Annie back in February of last year. We hope you enjoy it.
Hallam-like every other club- places great value on the fantastic volunteers who are the life blood of our Non- League game. Up and down the League, supporters give up their time and effort in support of their local club, and usually once people get involved, they stay involved and become a valued part of the fabric of the club. The best clubs tend to create an environment in which volunteers are welcomed and appreciated, write Ian Jones and John Wiseman for www.hallamfc.co.uk
For Ann, of course, catering for over 300 hungry and thirsty lads and lasses on a Saturday afternoon at Sandygate is almost second nature after volunteering in S10 for over sixty years. She lived near to the ground, and her grandad took her to Sandygate as a young girl. She’s still stunned by now much has changed at the ground over those six decades. “We used to serve the hot drinks in pot cups”, she recalls. “I used to sell the raffle tickets, and the players used to get changed across the road (at the Plough Inn) or at the cricket club. There was no hot water, so we used to have to take buckets of hot water across for the players to get changed. My Mum and dad washed the kits, and we used to clean the changing rooms after the games”.
After helping her late sister in Hallam’s canteen, Ann took over the catering role in 1974 and has been doing it ever since.
Annie " I'm a great believer in being ready"
We wondered what a Saturday match day looked like for Ann “We get to the ground about 10.15 and I put the heating on for the showers” she explained “We put the drinks in the dressing room, make sure that things like toilet rolls are ready; then –after wiping down the kitchen surfaces -we put the cooker on and start to prepare the sandwiches for hospitality. That takes us to about half past twelve”.
“The players generally arrive at about one o’clock, with the officials, and we make them a drink “Ann went on” The gates open at about 1.30, and we start to sell food and drink almost immediately". Ann’s niece helps in Ann's Cabin on match days.
As you expect, Ann is a stickler for preparedness. “I’m a great believer in being ready-everything must be ready “she insisted. She travels to any away game she can get to-which is virtually all of them- and shared an experience at an away tie in the FA Vase where “nothing was ready” She’d been up to Kirklees the previous evening for Hallam’s NCEL League Cup tie at AFC Emley, and was impressed by the catering there.” Knaresborough is good too”, she said “but the standards are pretty good across the League”.
Inevitably, half time on match days is busy, and as the second half progresses, Ann gets to work on the post-match food for the players- typically chilli, pasta and garlic bread.
Hallam’s success in getting people through the gate brings its own problems, of course. “It is much busier now” Ann admitted. “It’s never easy to decide what to cater and in what quantities. You must consider the weather, too; and make sure we don’t waste food by having too much stock. Postponements can be a nightmare…”
Ann has been to so many games that she if you push her for a favourite she struggles, although a cup match against North East club Willington, and watching their fans ringing their old school bells file past her home springs to mind.
Quizzed about her favourite Hallam Manager, Ann wouldn’t be drawn on the subject. “I daren’t pick any favourites” she laughed, although she did admit that (then) current Management team- Ryan Hindley and Stephen Whitehead – “are all good lads”.
Ann attributes much of the increase in crowd numbers to the welcome Chairman Steve Basford’s club offers to the spectators visiting Sandygate. “It’s really important that you make people feel welcome” she insisted. “Some clubs don’t make you feel welcome at all. The welcome starts with the gate man-if he’s friendly it’s a good start”.
We asked Ann about how she sees the future of the Non- League game. She shares a couple of major concerns with us, and both are pretty familiar. “We have tried, but we must try harder to cut the bad language out” Ann told me, reflecting on the “big change” she has seen -in the treatment of match officials, for example.
Ann’s other major concern takes us right back to volunteers “Clubs need younger volunteers to help them move forward” she warned. “Succession is important. Young people bring new ideas and energy, and sometimes older people don’t like change”.
You can’t say that about Ann, that’s for sure.
Ann Holland was talking to www.hallamfc.co.uk